NISSAN chiefs have defended the Leaf after a “misleading” TV review gave electric cars a rough ride.
The latest episode of the BBC’s Top Gear showed presenters James May and Jeremy Clarkson having to push a Leaf after it ran out of power.
Clarkson, filmed brass-rubbing for a few hours while his vehicle recharged, said electric vehicles “were not the future”.
He claimed that being environmentally friendly, electric vehicle drivers were “more likely to get a girlfriend” than himself, but added: “You just have to hope she doesn’t live at the other end of the country.”
However, Andy Palmer, the Nissan’s executive vice-president, said the BBC2 show, watched by 5.6million people at the weekend, had been misleading.
The Japanese car giant, which plans to create 800 jobs by building the Leaf in Sunderland, said it delivered the test vehicle to Top Gear fully-charged with enough power to do 100 miles.
But a device in the vehicle had sent data back showing the car had been driven for 35 miles that evening, before being plugged in to recharge.
Updates on the state of the battery showed it was only charged for 55 minutes, leaving the car with only a 30-mile range shown on its electronic display.
Clarkson’s destination was Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, 60 miles away and he and May were shown stopping en route in a bay for disabled drivers.
They then headed for Lincoln – the civic centre of a county with no public charge points – where the programme producers had purposefully intended to run out of power.
Mr Palmer said Nissan had added a significant safety margin to the range of the Leaf to prevent drivers running out.
The vehicle’s satnav system also warns drivers at the start of their journey if they do not have enough power to reach their destination.
Mr Palmer said it appears the Leaf loaned to Top Gear had been driven in loops round Lincoln until the battery was flat.
The BBC and Top Gear denied accusations they mislead viewers.
A spokeswoman for the corporation said: “The point of the film was to show how bad the charging network infrastructure is in the UK.
“The car needed to run out of charge so that could be demonstrated.”
Wearside is already sporting several sites for electric vehicle owners to power-up.
The first points were switched on in February, and 30 points will be available in 11 council-run car parks in the city.
The sites are: Civic Centre, St. Mary’s, Sunniside multi-storey, Tatham Street; Station Road, Houghton, Speculation Place, Washington – Boughton Street, Seaburn Ocean Park, Roker Harbour View, Nile Street and Barnes Street, Hetton.
There are also charging points at County Hall and the university science site in Durham City.